Originally published in SLAM 37
The 6th Man: Over the past several years, we’ve been guilty of playing both sides of the fence, with regard to athletes and education. If my memory serves me correctly, we’ve run articles imploring athletes to stay in school and get their degrees in back-to-back issues with ones demanding that they take the money and run.
Our reactions to this complicated issue are forgivable and, hopefully, understandable: after all, we’ve always treated each player on a case-by-case basis. And that’s why—and I’m obviously anticipating some outside criticism here—we’re running an article championing Eugene Edgerson’s decision to redshirt from an Arizona club on which he’d be a focal point, while in the same issue lionizing rookie Lamar Odom, a player who many observers think would be better served by a few dozen more college credits (and an unlisted phone number), for looking to strut his stuff in the NBA, like, the day after tomorrow.
And Lamar should, you know. His game is already to the point where the only way he’d get better in college is if they played with a 24-second clock and man-to-man defenses. Let’s face it: when you’re the fourth pick in the NBA draft—and I guarantee you that the level-headed Mr. Edgerson would agree wholeheartedly—there’s plenty of time for college after the millions have stopped pouring in.
For Lamar Odom, who has been compared by lesser idiots than us to Earvin “Buck” Johnson, the money train shouldn’t stop for the next dozen-or-so years. A 6-10 point forward who can handle the rock and understands the concept of team basketball? Please. The only question is, with apologies to the still grief-stricken Steve Francis, what in the hell the Vancouver Grizzlies were thinking when they looked beyond Odom’s impressive wingspan and knowledge of the game. Now, none of us in the media know Lamar all that well—he seems like a pretty private guy, and rightly so: he’s been burned more times Evel Knievel’s kid. But here’s just one person’s opinion that says a) I’m glad he turned pro and b) God help the Western Conference.
That’s it, I’m out.